EghtesadOnline: Germany's chief diplomat reassured Iranian officials on Monday that Europe is determined to fulfill its commitments under Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, while emphasizing the need for dialogue among regional countries to prevent tensions from worsening.
Heiko Maas visited Tehran to hold talks with President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, as part of a concerted European effort to preserve the unraveling nuclear agreement and defuse rising US-Iran tensions.
A cautious thaw in relations between Tehran and Washington set in when Iran struck the deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, with six world powers. But tensions mounted once again when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew Washington from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions.
In an effort to protect at least some of Iran's economy from US sanctions, France, Britain and Germany have opened a new channel for non-dollar trade with Iran, known as the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges or INSTEX. However, it initially does not allow for the big transactions that Tehran says are needed to keep the deal afloat, according to Financial Tribune.
At a joint press conference with Zarif after their meeting, Maas said, "We are trying to honor our commitments under the JCPOA, but we cannot work miracles."
He noted that Germany continues to support the accord and is making efforts to help Tehran receive the economic benefits of it through INSTEX, ISNA reported.
Ahead of his talks with Iranian officials, the German foreign minister told reporters that the special purpose vehicle is expected to be ready soon.
"This is an instrument of a new kind, so it's not straightforward to operationalize it," he said, pointing to the complexity of trying to install a new payment mechanism independent of the US-dominated financial system, Reuters reported.
"But all the formal requirements are in place now, and so I'm assuming we'll be ready to use it in the foreseeable future," Maas said.
At the press conference, the German foreign minister said it is "unacceptable" that a co-signatory decides to reduce its commitments under the deal because another participant has chosen to not meet its obligations.
Last month, Iran scaled back some commitments under the agreement and warned that it would resume refining uranium to a higher fissile degree than that permitted by the accord in 60 days, if Europe fails to shield its trade from US sanctions.
Maas, who had coordinated his trip to Iran with France and Britain and also discussed it with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said no one will benefit from a new conflict in the region and highlighted the need for dialogue among regional countries.
"During my tour of the region, I realized that nobody wants an escalation of tensions," he said, in reference to his stops in Jordan, Iraq and the UAE prior to his visit to Tehran.
Zarif said the "economic war" launched by Washington against Tehran is to blame for the ongoing tensions.
"The only solution for reducing tensions in this region is stopping this economic war. While an economic war is underway against ordinary people, those who support it or have launched it cannot expect to stay safe," he said.
Iran’s chief diplomat said the Islamic Republic is seeking to save the nuclear deal and prevent further tensions in the region, but warned that "whoever starts a war with us will not be the one who finishes it".
Zarif noted that Iran has always been ready to negotiate with its neighbors and other regional countries to promote security and stability.
"We believe Germany and the European Union could play an important role in defusing tensions, and we welcome any effort by them toward this end," he said.